Marilyn Amobi, the managing director of the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc, fraudulently paid at least N2 billion naira to two power generating companies, documents obtained by Leaks NG have shown.
The documents also revealed that Mrs. Amobi, who was made the substantive boss of NBET in July 2016, was also involved in a series of corruption allegations such as subversion of board approvals and infraction of procurement laws.
Fraudulent payments to GENCOs
A few weeks after she was confirmed as the managing director of NBET, the organisation that manages the electricity pool in the country’s electricity supply industry, Mrs. Amobi started overpaying two power generating companies – Omotosho Electric Genco and Olorunsogo Electric Company – in flagrant violation of the details of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) the companies signed with the government in February and August 2016, respectively.
The PPA is an agreement between NBET and power generating plants for the sale and purchase of energy generated by the plants. Embedded within the PPA are the Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) that covers the supply of natural gas to the generating plant and the Gas Transportation Agreement (GTA), which is an agreement between gas transporters and power generating plants.
According to the PPA, to qualify for full payment, generating plants must provide evidence that they have active GSA and GTA or else the power purchase agreement would be deemed inactive and would only receive payment for the power they supplied.
“Seller (Omotosho Genco) hereby agrees that any claim for Available Capacity payment under the PPA are conditional on the Seller providing evidence acceptable to the Buyer (NBET) confirming that it has a legally binding and enforceable Gas Supply and Aggregation Agreement and Gas Transportation Agreement, in accordance with clause 3.2.2 and 4.2.1 of the PPA,” the agreement obtained by Leaks NG stated.
However, despite the fact that Omotosho did not provide evidence of gas supply aggregation and transportation, the company continued to tender request for full payment 20 months. According to the document in possession of Leaks NG, the over-invoicing was detected in October 2017 following an NBET internal audit.
On September 22, 2016, NBET had written to Omotosho requesting that it fulfills the condition for the PPA. The generating company was first given a 30-day grace to provide the necessary document. The window to provide the document was later extended to 90 day, yet it never provided the document.
For instance, in June 2017, Omotosho supplied energy to the tune of 33.16 megawatts but invoiced up to 161.74 megawatts.
This implies that Omotosho laid claim to an excess of 128.58 megawatts as excess capacity for the cycle.
For this capacity, Omotosho requested for payment of N1,023,532,574 instead of N209,824,177, leaving an excess of N813,708,397 for the capacity in June 2016.
Similarly, Olorunsogo Power Plc, whose PPA took effect from August 2014 in the said month, tendered 11.9 megawatts for energy while 197.83 as capacity. Since the PPA was not active, the capacity ought to be equal to the energy to make the firm qualify for payment as stated in the agreement.
Olorunsogo issued an invoice of N1, 251, 881, 528 for capacity for June 2016 as against N75, 363, 267 calculated by its actual energy. The difference is an over-invoicing of N1, 176, 518, 261.
For both firms, the over-invoicing amounts to N1, 990, 226, 658 as excess in just one month, June 2016.
Leaks NG could not lay hold to all invoices issued by the companies, the two we obtained showed that NBET made partial payments to the companies.
In one of the invoices, Mrs. Amobi paid Omotosho N339, 813, 418 in October 2016. The fund is part payment for July 2016 energy and capacity.
On the same date: October 11, 2016, NBET paid Olorunsogo N372, 498, 731 also as part payment for July.
These payments are clearly in breach of the PPA and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) order of Transitional Stage Electricity Market (TEM).
Order IV of The TEM states that: “Gencos without effective PPAs shall be paid for their delivered energy and delivered capacity by NBET (Delivered capacity for the purposes of this order means the capacity equivalent of the energy delivered at Gencos busbar.”
These illegal payments wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Amobi’s insistence.
While the Internal Audit of NBET refused to process the payment, Amobi signed the July payment on 13th October 2017 assuming the role of internal audit in violation of financial regulation.
This is a breach of Section 1705 of the financial regulations which states that “the Head of Internal Audit Unit in all ministries/extra-ministerial offices and other arms of government shall ensure that 100 per cent pre-payment audit of all checked and passed vouchers is carried out and the vouchers forwarded under security schedule direct to the appropriate Central Pay Office for payment. Checked and passed vouchers received in the internal audit Unit must be promptly dealt with and, under no circumstances shall a voucher be held in that unit for more than forty-eight (48) hours.”
Illegal payment to law firms
Sometimes in 2014, NBET wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to request the agency sign off on power procurement and retroactive no objection in procurement.
The request simply means that NBET requests to be excluded from being subjected to BPP act in its power purchase agreement. The request was declined by BPP.
In a response dated April 29, 2014, BPP stated that NBET, like other agencies, must follow due procurement process in power procurement.
BPP noted in its reply, “That if section 5 (a) of PPA was intended to exclude some sectors like the Power Sector, it would have been stated clearly. Consequently, giving NBET a one-off approval for NBET’s power procurement process would not only amount to a contravention of the Act, but it would also open a floodgate of similar requests thereby engendering confusion in the system.
“It is pertinent for NBET to note that electricity (being goods) can only be procured within one of the procedures stated in part 42.4 of standard bidding documents.
“The bureau therefore strongly advises that NBET should consult the Public Procurement Regulations, manuals for complex projects and standard bidding documents for procurement of goods, as this would assist NBET in complying with extant procurement rules and regulations.”
However, the management of NBET, then under the leadership of its inaugural Managing Director, Rumundaka Wonodi, was unsatisfied with the position of BPP. The agency sought legal advice on the way forward.
On June 1 2015, NBET advertised a notice for an expression of interest to engage lawyers in such cases, more specifically on BPP’s response.
According to the advert, the successful law firm is expected to discharge such duties as, “General, corporate, commercial and administrative law, with a view to advising NBET on general commercial and contract matters, providing legal opinions as necessary, and advising on various civil law.”
According to a report by NBET’s evaluation committee, three firms: Azinge and Azinge, Chukwuka Ugwu and Associate and John Erameh submitted their bids.
The process was however truncated upon advice by the Internal Audit Department of NBET.
Surprisingly, in April 2017, two years after, the Internal Audit received a request from Mrs. Amobi for payment of N30 million to two firms.
Mrs. Amobi wants Azinge and Azinge to be paid a contract sum of N14 million and Aelex N16 million respectively.
The process that led to this request was one replete with infractions and breach of public procurement law.
It is worthy of note that the procurement process was stopped in 2015 and if there would be a need for the services of law firms in 2017, the process of engagement is supposed to take an entirely new process according to procurement laws.
The BPP act in Section 16(1)(b) states the process of procurement; “based only on procurement plan supported by prior budgetary appropriations and no procurement proceedings shall be formalised until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available to meet the obligations and subject to the threshold in the regulations made by the Bureau, has obtained a “Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to Contract Award” from the Bureau.”
There was no new advertisement or procurement process but Mrs. Amobi presented the two firms for payment.
Surprisingly, one of the firms laying claim to payment, Aelex, was not part of the 2015 process, as the firm was not captured in the evaluation report.
Illegal payment to consultant
In 2016, NEXANT, a software and energy firm, engaged a former staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Uzoma Achinaya, to provide advisory and analytics work for NBET.
According to the arrangement, Mr Achinaya would work for NBET for a period, present a report to NEXANT and claim his payment from NEXANT.
This indeed happened but instead of NEXANT to pay the consultant, NBET’s leadership decided to pay him despite not being party of the engagement agreement.
On January 23 2017, Mr. Achinaya wrote Mrs Amobi requesting NBET to pay him the sum of N7 million advance payment for the work he had done so far.
“I refer to the advisory and analytics work that l have done for NBET on the sustainable solutions to the Liquidity Challenges in the Nigerian Electricity industry.
“I appreciate the steps NBET management is taking to resolve the issues with NEXANT regarding my contract which has resulted in the delayed payment of my fees for the services rendered. However, I have some very urgent family commitments, including school fees for my children, which need immediate funding. It will be appreciated if I can be granted a payment advance in the sum of Seven Million Naira (N7, 000, 000.00}, in lieu of the money I am owed for the work already done, to enable me meet some of these commitments.
“The amount should be recovered from my payment when the issues with NEXANT are finally resolved.”
The irregularities in the request were flagged by the Internal Audit, which declined payment to Mr. Achinaya.
The audit department argued that it declined the payment because Mrs Amobi’s N7.5 million request was above her N2.5 approval threshold and that the process of contracting was not subjected to any procurement process.
Internal audit also argued that the consultant does not have a Tax Identification Number (TIN) as stipulated by procurement law, inside sources told Leaks NG.
To bypass the procurement part, Mrs. Amobi allegedly directed the Parastatal Tenders Board of NBET to seek consideration and approval for the requested fund.
The board submitted its report in March claiming that due process was followed in the award of the consultancy contract.
The memorandum for consideration and approval indicated that the bid was opened on March 1, 2017, with a deadline of March 6.
At the end of the process, two individuals were said to have emerged out of five expressions of interest received; Joe Agah with 59.7 total weighted scores and Uzoma Achinaya with 95.1.
The contract was later awarded to Mr. Achinaya at the sum of N25, 850, 000.
Even at that, the board did a shabby job in the cover-up.
The consultant started work in 2016, requested for payment in January 2017 for his ongoing work but the NBET management instituted a post-dated procurement process to make the payment possible.
Transfer of staff without board’s approval
In 2017, Mrs. Amobi made a request to the Accountant-General for officials from his office to be transferred to NBET to head the Internal Audit and Finance departments. Inside sources alleged that she made this request because she felt the officials who headed the department at NBET was standing in her way.
The request was granted in June 2017. The AGF posted Hauwa Bello from the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) to head the Internal Audit. He also posted Sambo Abdullahi to the Learning and Development, a newly created department at NBET.
Waziri Bintube of the Finance Department was reposted to Risk and Guarantee, another department created by Mrs Amobi allegedly to victimise the two top officials.
A month earlier, Mrs. Amobi had facilitated the transfer of two people, Ajulo Adesola from the national Agency for Science and Engineering (NASENI) and Acho Onyechege from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to NBET as treasury officers.
Though the new postings were communicated in a letter by AGF on 30 May 2018, they flouted the requirement of NBET charter which places the responsibility of recommending postings within the agency on the Human Resources Committee of NBET.
Section 2.4 (b) of the charter state that the Human Resource Committee shall ‘review and make recommendations to the Board for approval of the Company’s organisational structure and any proposed amendments.’
Although the Accountant-General reserves the authority to approve such reviews, the office does not have the power to make postings.
Amobi evasive, abusive
When contacted to respond to the series of allegations against her, Mrs Amobi, rained abuses Leaks NG reporter.
Without first listening to the reporter’s questions, in in a statement, replete with swear words, the MD she said she would not comment to any of the allegations because the issues are in court.
“If they are things about NBET that are currently in court, there is really no need…some of them are in court. I’m sure some people brought this to you.
“You’ve written a story about us before of us sending some people to America which of course didn’t happen. These are issues that are with EFCC, ICPC and even in the court,” she said.
After calling the reporter many unprintable names, Mrs Amobi ended the call.
This report was put together by Leaks.NG, a coalition of news and civil society organisations, which provide a platform for Nigerians to submit evidence of wrongdoing by public office holders in Nigeria. To make a submission, please go on Leaks.NG and follow the simple steps involved.
Crisis rocks Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as D-G refuses to leave after tenure
There is apprehension in the Abuja head office of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as a result of the decision of the Director-General (D-G), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, to remain in office after the expiration of his tenure.
Despite the order from the Permanent Secretary of the federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is the overall boss of the ministry in the absence of a minister, that Ihekweazu should vacate office based on the content of his appointment letter dated August 1, 2016, he has bluntly refused to obey the instruction.
A presidency source, who is in the know of what is going on in the agency, declared that the Permanent Secretary has made an official complaint against the D-G to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The presidency source said: “There is a complete loss of confidence in the D-G and the top officials no longer hold meetings with him”.
Aside the fact that this action may affect the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, it may also affect the mandate of the agency to effectively respond to the challenges of public health emergencies.
The source declared that the Presidency is already shopping for a replacement “and this will be announced soon”.
The top four directors in the agency are Dr. Joshua Obasanya, Mrs. Olubunmi Ojo, Mrs. Nwando Mba and Mr. Y.Y. Abdullahi. Of these four, Obasanya is the most senior.
There are also Deputy Directors such as, Dr. John Oladejo, Mrs. Elsie Ilori, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, Dr. Chinwe Ochu and Dr. Olufemi Ayoola “and I can tell you for free that these top officials don’t see eye to eye with the D-G again”.
One of the junior officials in the ministry declared: “Our D-G has vehemently refused to vacate office, despite the instruction from the Permanent Secretary”.
He said Ihekweazu assumed office on August 1, 2016 based on a letter signed by the then SGF, Babachir David Lawal.
With Ref. No. SGF.6/XXI/356 and entitled APPOINTMENT OF NATIONAL COORDINATOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (NCDC), the letter reads:
“I am pleased to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved your appointment as National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the National Office for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).
“The appointment took effect from 25th July, 2016 and your emoluments and other conditions of service are as provided under Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008.
“I am to add that your tenure terminates at the end of this Administration unless otherwise decided by Mr. President.
“Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment”.
The source declared that Ihekweazu “pressed all the buttons” to ensure a renewal of his tenure in May and April but a fresh letter was not given to him.
“He should have left office since May 29 but he has been using delay tactics. I can tell you that the morale is down in our office. All our ogas (directors) don’t attend meeting with Dr. Ihekweazu again.
“I remember the last meeting they had with him was about two days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for another term on May 29.
“The D-G should have left office on May 28 but he told them that he would leave office Tuesday of the following week. Twenty four hours to the day, he called them again and announced that he would leave office the following Thursday. All of a sudden, the next thing we saw was a letter from the D-G, informing all directors, heads of departments and members of staff that he would go on one-week leave from June 13 to 21”.
The letter, dated June 11, 2019, reads:
“Dear Colleagues, I will be proceeding on annual leave from the 13th to 21st of June, 2019.
“During this period, Dr. Joshua Obasanya will act in my capacity as Director-General.
“I am very grateful for the hard work and support from you all in the first half of this year. It has been an extremely busy period but with a lot of success and remarkable achievements.
“The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey.
“Once again colleagues, thank you very much for your support.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu”
The source said the paragraph ‘The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey’ is already causing ripples in the agency as it is believed that Ihekweazu does not want to vacate office, despite the expiration of his tenure.
The source alleged that the D-G “is still signing cheques and awarding contracts, backdating them to May 27”.
“There is a serious lacuna in our office. The sit-tight syndrome is already affecting our operations here. There is also the allegation of nepotism against the D-G. Since the D-G resumed from the one-week leave, I have not seen our ogas (directors) in his office. Now, we hear all kinds of rumours.
“There is tension everywhere. One of the ogas (directors) told me that they will not have any meeting with him. Honestly, since the Permanent Secretary advised the D-G to leave, I wonder what he is still doing in the office”.
Established in 2011, the core functions of NCDC include prevention, detection and control of diseases of public health importance.
Publication threats: Billionaire bank debtors lobby CBN Gov to save faces
- Our decision meant to avert another banking crisis – DMBs
Fresh information reaching The Witness has revealed that some top Nigerian billionaires are currently lobbying the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele to save their heads following threats by chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.
The Witness reliably gathered from inside sources that since the disclosure of the decision by the bank CEOs, some top moneybags have continued to pressure the apex bank and its head honcho to intervene in the decision of the lender to give them time to clear up their debts.
Aside from this development affecting their businesses, bank debtors are more uncomfortable with the idea of making their names public, especially at a trying time like this. They are deeply afraid that the policy may throw them out of business, especially for those of them who need foreign exchange to operate.
Chronic debtors, analysts say, are those debtors who are unwilling to repay their loans to the banks.
The decision which the DMB’s are ready to implement to the letter, is aimed at forestalling the growing amount of non-performing loans NPLs, in the books of financial institutions to avert another banking crisis in the country.
Recall, CEOs of DMBs across the country recently agreed to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.
The bankers made this known after a meeting held to discuss how some debtors have been allegedly using law enforcement agencies to harass and criminalize bank CEOs.
In a statement, the group said the affected debtors are not ready to repay their loans. The group spoke in Lagos after reviewing what it called the “harassment and criminalization of banks’ CEOs by law enforcement agencies.” It noted that chronic bank debtors were now in the habit of enlisting law enforcement agencies including police, judiciary and state security to harass and criminalize bank CEOs, saying this was unacceptable. “Notably, these loan defaulters are known to have abused court processes as well as using social media to propagate their smear campaign against the banks,” the group said.
A communique issued following the meeting noted that these activities by the law enforcement agencies and the bank debt defaulters were capable of adversely affecting the banking system vis-à-vis the CEOs’ reputation amongst international banks, destroy the economy, and called for these to be checked and managed.
In order to tackle what they see as an emerging threat to banking business in Nigeria, the committee outlined a five-step resolution of actions that banks would need to take. The resolutions and planned actions were arrived at after members discussed and considered different options for dealing with the issue.
Specifically, the banks’ CEOs said there was an urgent need for all banks to cooperate and collaborate to identify and ex-communicate chronic debt defaulters, noting that this goes beyond “publishing names of such defaulters in national media (which is inevitable), but involves all banks speaking with ‘one voice’ and sharing information about those entities, and refusing to do further business with them until they settle their obligations.”
To avoid the kind of crisis that rocked the banking sector 10 years ago, the CEOs urged all agencies and stakeholders to step up and help fight the inherent menace of chronic loan defaulters.
According to the CEOs, the banking industry is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, therefore, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders – regulators, police, judiciary, corporate organizations and media to help save it from activities of delinquent debtors.
Besides, the group resolved that all cases of defaults would be presented and passed through the Bankers’ Committee Ethics Committee just as it intends to work with legal councils and come up with ways and strategies to manage related cases effectively without disrupting businesses and the system.
In a recent publication, Access Bank had threatened to publish the names of customers refusing to settle their debts in national dailies.
In a statement, the bank had said it is acting in line with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“All Access Bank Plc (including former Diamond Bank Plc) debtors are directed to pay up their past due obligations in order to avoid punitive actions being taken against them,” the bank said.
The statement added, “Please note that we shall publish our debtors’ names in newspapers in two weeks.
“Similarly, in the event that these obligations are not fulfilled, we shall take such further actions against such delinquent individuals and companies as we may consider necessary and shall relentlessly pursue full recovery of all our debts.”
While experts appear to condemn the act of borrowing and refusing to repay the loans, they are more afraid of the bad implication it could have on the macro economy.
Managing director/CEO at BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, in a chat with newsmen believes that since the CBN has autonomy it can take decisions in the best interest of the economy.
He, however, said the idea was good for the banks, but advised that caution should be applied in order to publish only names of those who actually owe.
”The autonomy of the Central Bank should have instrument autonomy which implies that the Central Bank should have unhindered freedom to decide on how best to achieve its mandate without any dictation from any quarters. If the Bankers’ Committee which the CBN chairs decides to publish the names of debtors, so be it.
“We just hope that in embarking on this name-and-shame approach, due care is exercised so that the names of actual debtors are published.
”We had an experience during the immediate past administration when a deluge of rebuttals and retractions followed an attempt to embark on similar exercise. We must avoid such embarrassments this time around.
“If names are to be published, due care must be exercised to ensure the names of only those culpable are published. It is embarrassing and unfair otherwise considering the potential damage to reputation such a move will occasion. It is not good for the creditors for their names to so published as most of these recalcitrant debtors are the juggernauts in our midst; the movers and shakers; the financiers of electoral campaigns who often think that because of their access to the powers that be they remain beyond the law.
”This is a last resort desperate measure meant to stem the wind of distress overtaking the banks leading to a harvest of bank failures. It is good for the banks generally as it has the effect of sanitizing the banks to restore them to sound health to continue to provide banking services, sustain the going concern and continue to return dividends to their many shareholders and stakeholders,” he concluded.
It would be recalled that the immediate-past CBN governor, now Emir Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had published names of those indebted to some of the banks that failed the second phase of the apex bank’s stress test in 2009.
Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON had in 2013 called a governorship candidate in one of the South-south states of Nigeria a chronic debtor for his unwillingness to liquidate his debt to some banks.
Homeowners accuse CMB Building Company, its CEO Mbagwu of fraud, petition EFCC
The residents of Pearl Garden Estate and Pearl Nuga Park Estate located at Sangotedo in Lekki/Ajah area of Lagos State have petitioned against the CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Ltd to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraudulent mortgage of some of their homes to secure unapproved bank loans.
Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred representatives of CMB, a building and maintenance firm owned by Kelechukwu Mbagwu from maintaining the homes at Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.
The separate petitions dated May 28, 2019 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were signed by Mr Patrick Olowokere, the President of Pearl Nuga Estate and Reverend Adesola Adebawo, President of Pearl Garden Estate respectively.
According to the petitioners, CMB obtained a mortgage from Wema Bank Plc using the affected homes at Pearl Nuga Estate as collateral without the knowledge or consent of the affected homeowners.
“The affected homeowners, namely; Bridget Eko, Osagie Aimiehnoho Jude, Mr Akinola Alabi, Mrs Oluwadara Alabi, Nosakhare Igbinobi and Amos Gaga, paid CMB for those houses to be built and had taken possession of their houses from CMB at different times.
“CMB and Mr Mbagwu fraudulently withheld the title deeds of the houses from the affected homeowners as it withheld those of several other homeowners within the estate,” they alleged in a petition duly acknowledged and signed by the EFCC, copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
However, the bank has begun a recovery of the six houses within the estate following the failure of CMB, the property developer, to repay the loan, according to the petitioners.
Similarly, Pearl Garden Estate also accused CMB of using the homes of four of their members — Mr and Mrs Michael Bassey, Mr Oyeleke Jegede, Mr Larry Amaraibi and one Mr Felix — who had already paid in full to allegedly obtain a N10 million loan from Diamond Bank (now Access Bank).
Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred staff or representatives of CMB from Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.
The petitioners said, “We have no other choice but to believe that other houses of our members and homeowners within the estates may be the subject of similar fraudulent mortgages.’’
Another resident, Mr A. Akeredolu, said: “Some of us have waited endlessly for the commencement of the ‘fictitious’ Pearl Royale Scheme, Pearl Garden Extension and Pearl Nuga Park.
“We paid for these in full since 2010 but have yet to be shown the location of our purchases, let alone the allocations.
“We know projects fail, but they have yet to make any official statement or promise of refund. These people are so bold and fearless, one wonders who is backing them!”
All efforts by our reporter to reach Mr. Mbagwu for his angle to the allegations proved futile as calls and text messages placed to his mobile line were not responded to as at press time.
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